Their sunflowers have brought joy to the community in divisive times. The Brandel siblings—Colton, 15, Ashley, 14, Katie, 11 and Justin 10— decided to learn more about raising crops this summer, while donating some funds to charity in honor of someone special.
“We decided to do this because our grandma has cancer and her favorite flower is a sunflower,” said Justin, the youngest of the siblings. “We wanted to do something for her, so we made the sunflower field.”
He said their grandmother, Laurie Britzke, has been encouraged by the kids endeavor.
“We decided to do this because it’s really fun and gave us something to do over the summer.”
They planted the seeds this Spring, and the humidity caused the flowers to open a bit earlier than anticipated.
“Some of them bloomed really early, but there are still some that can bloom.”
Using a half-acre of property on their family dairy and livestock farm the siblings started growing sunflowers this year, among other livestock projects. They hand sowed each seed, which took about five hours, and did all the weeding and watering. The kids are also keeping a joint checkbook and detailed records of the project, all in an effort to learn more about economics in agriculture.
“We grow soybeans and corn, but this is something way different,” said Katie. “It’s different than what we grow at our farm and different than raising livestock.”
Growing sunflowers has been a learning experience for the siblings, but they’ve seen the joy it has brought to people.
“When people get their sunflowers they just smile,” she said.
For her the most rewarding part of the project has been seeing her grandmother, who lives nearby, smile.
“Seeing her smile every day and loving to see kids and people just having fun and being happy. I love to see her happy,” she said.
The children of Matt and Tracy Brandel proposed the project to their parents over dinner to honor their grandmother. The kids plan to donate a portion of their earnings to the Jefferson County Cancer Coalition in her honor. They held a fundraiser for the group Aug. 1, with proceeds going to the coalition.
Tracy said through planting the seeds the family learned a lot about what they would do differently next year. The siblings plan to repeat the project next year using a planter and spacing the rows farther apart.
The kids designed a Facebook page called Brandel’s Blooms and started welcoming families to the farm July 27. A variety of animals are available for a petting zoo at the field, which has been a delight to local children.
The family is following COVID-19 guidelines for farm visits. Handwashing stations, hand sanitizer and social distancing are encouraged.
Katie said hand planting the flowers wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be.
“It’s not how I thought it was going to go,” she said she was worried no one would want to come pick sunflowers. “I think overall we’ve had a good turnout.”
She said they are considering other vegetables for next season.
Tracy said the siblings figured out how many people would need to come to make a sizable donation to the Jefferson County Cancer Coalition and they’ve surpassed that goal already.
For those interested in visiting the sunflower field admission is $6 per person which includes two fresh cut sunflower blooms, ages 10 and under $3 which includes one sunflower bloom, and $1 for each additional bloom.
Ready-made sunflower arrangements are available for purchase in large ($10), medium ($8) or small ($5) sizes.
Cash only is being accepted at this time. Profits from the sale of the beverages will be donated to area youth organizations including FFA, 4-H or dairy youth. Hours of operation are from 3 to 7 p.m. daily. The farm is located at W8559 County B, Lake Mills, WI. To learn more about the project go to Brandel’s Blooms on Facebook.
“We hand seeded them and what’s a better way to learn agriculture than this,” Justin asked. “We planted this and now we have a field full.”